By Brian Sutter
The try-out period for social media is long past. Even tiny businesses – even many who don’t even have their own websites – know they need to be on social.
Just “being on social” is a good start (though I still urge you to have a website, too). But marketing your small business on social media takes a particular kind of mindset. It’s not advertising, after all – you have to do more than just broadcast messages at people.
Social media has also become a primary channel for customer service. You should expect to hear from customers and prospects via social media now – both when they’re happy… and when they’re not. And many of those communications will be visible to the public, which means you’re under extra pressure to get it right.
But don’t worry – the public nature of social media is almost always a good thing. Even when you get a complaint, it can be turned into a positive experience. So if your business isn’t on social media already, do it now. And have fun with it. Just try to avoid these common mistakes.
1. You’re posting exactly the same update to every one of your social media accounts.
Every social media platform is different. What works on one won’t work on another. So don’t automatically send your tweets to Facebook, or try to post your LinkedIn updates to Instagram. They’re all very different platforms.
The worst part of posting like this is that people will start to ignore your updates. It’ll look like you’re just “phoning it in”.
2. You don’t follow other accounts.
Social media is not advertising. It’s not one-way communication.
So don’t be that business that doesn’t follow anyone.
As soon as you’ve got your account set up and looking good, go find about 20-40 other accounts to follow. Then, over time, start liking and commenting and even re-sharing their stuff. You know – be part of their community. It gets them to know you and like you enough to follow your account.
Keep following more people, businesses, and organizations, too. And share and comment on their posts. This is an important way to be visible.
3. You’re using a personal account as a business account.
In our 2017 WASP Barcode Technologies’ State of Small Business Report, only 37% of small businesses said they use designated business social media accounts to reach their audiences.
That means 63% of them – nearly two out of three – are blending personal and business accounts.
There’s a couple of issues with this. For one thing, it makes your business look unprofessional. But it also inhibits your own activity on social media. Particularly now, with politics so volatile, it’s a good idea to be careful what you share – especially for business accounts.
Even if you aren’t caught up in politics, it’s still a little odd to be sharing personal photos to a business account. One every so often is fine… but not all the time.
Besides, separating your accounts is easy. And it’s free. So practice good housekeeping and keep personal and business accounts separate.
Hey – you do it for your bank accounts, right?
4. You aren’t responding to customer inquiries on social media.
While researching the State of Small Business Report, we were heartened to learn that about one in three small businesses is doing customer service on social media. That’s a good start, but I’d like to see it go much higher.
You see, your customers expect you to be responding to them on social media. And when you don’t… it creates a bad impression.
5. You’re trying to be on every social media site.
And as a result, you’re spreading your resources too thin. You’re not putting in enough effort on any of the platforms, so you’re getting watered-down results.
So stop. Figure out which 2-3 platforms are generating the most results for you, and focus on those. Invest in them. Put time into them. Get good at them and the particular foibles and customs of each platform.
6. You’re posting too often… or not enough.
Balance applies to most things in life. It applies to social media, too. You need to post enough to get results, but not so much that your audience starts to want to tune you out.
So how often is that? The graphic below is a good guide. Just treat it like that – a guide. Not gospel.
7. You aren’t using any social media tools.
There are hundreds (thousands?) of social media tools that can optimize your work. I don’t suggest you try to use all of them, or even a tenth of them. But having a few (like 3-5) in your toolbox can be very helpful.
Here’s just a few I recommend. Again, this is barely scratching the surface of what’s available.
Buffer, Hootsuite, Sprout Social or Oktopost (for scheduling your posts)
Hiplay or Meet Edgar (to re-share top-performing posts)
Canva (https://www.canva.com) or Stencil (to create social media images)
PostPlanner (for Facebook)
Tailwind (for Pinterest and Instagram)
Just remember: Good social media requires person-to-person connections. Automated tools can help, but they can’t replace that.
8. You aren’t offering any coupons, discounts, or special deals just for your social media audience.
I’d rather you focused on offering great, audience-centric content as a way to build and engage your audience, but there’s no denying it: People follow companies on social because they want some deals.
So give them some. Occasionally – not every single day.
9. Expecting fast results.
Social media takes time to see results. You can’t think of it like it is a one-and-done sort of campaign. It’s something you’ll need to consistently contribute to.
So how long might it take to build even a modest following, and start getting some results? I’d give it at least three months of concerted effort. Six months to even a year would be better.
10. You’re trying the hard sell.
Try to teach, rather than sell on social.
Sure, you can announce a sales event now and again. And you can share about new products. But keep the promotional stuff to 20% or less of what you post.
The goal here is to be entertaining and useful. Because if you’re not being engaging… your audience has no reason to engage.
I don’t want to scare you off with all these “don’ts”. Social media can be a lot of fun, and even pretty profitable. But you’ve got to understand how different it is than the “old-school” advertising and hard-sell marketing. Those tactics will just fall flat on social.
But if you try to think like your customers, and share what they care about, you’ll do fine. Add a little responsiveness to their customer service needs, and you’ll have yourself a terrific business-building channel.